Engine Yard and WNYRuby or The Little Ruby Group that Could

Engine Yard is dedicated to helping the Ruby and Rails community flourish as much as possible. This is never more apparent than when examining a case where a small Ruby group, suffering low attendance and attrition, came to Engine Yard for help...and Engine Yard came through.

The Western New York Ruby Brigade was founded 5 years ago by a few folks who were adamant about Ruby and Rails who needed a way to share ideas with like minded individuals in and around Buffalo, NY. Made up of mostly independent contractors, the group would meet once a month to discuss topics and occasionally have presentations from one or two of the members. Unfortunately, the venue was always the same, on a college campus, sponsorship was nearly non-existent, and attendance ranged between 6 and 10 people every month. While some names were well known in the community, attendees would often only come for two or three meetings, and then disappear. Between lack of exposure and seeing the same information imparted repeatedly, things were looking grim, to the point where months would pass without a meeting.

In October, I moved to Engine Yard after working as a developer for a Rails shop focusing on admissions and evaluation software for Higher Education Health Sciences schools. After attending many meetings, I thought it would be good to ask the experts at Engine Yard for help. That last thing anyone wanted was for the group to fade away. Explaining the situation to the Engine Yard Community Events team, some serious flaws were seen and solutions were offered. Engine Yard offered us sponsorship capital, along with a boatload of schwag. This was a starting point, but it was the advice that really paid off. It was recommended we move off campus, to a place that had food, drinks, and wifi. I took this information back to the group coordinators who in turn made me a group coordinator and let me run free with re-booting WNY Ruby.

Our first step was a meet-up that focused on what the group was about. This offered an opportunity for people to find out a Ruby/Rails community existed in Western New York and meet the people who have a vested interest and plenty of knowledge. In order to bring people in, we set up the meeting at a local tavern, with food and beverages provided by Engine Yard. The next step was an all-out social media blitz. A twitter account was set up, the Facebook group was updated for the first time in months, we used meetup.com to let people know we were there. We even added links to the event on Reddit. Even with this step, Engine Yard stepped up, retweeting our links and information, helping getting everything in place for success.

Our first revamped meetup was in November. All the “original 6” were there...along with 25 new faces attending their first meeting. And things have just improved since then. WNY Ruby has been able to bring outside speakers like Engine Yard's Database guru Ines Sombra and testing evangelist Steve Klabnik of JumpstartLab. Generating interest has never been easier and at the heart of it is the help we received from Engine Yard's team of Community Managers. Engine Yard has provided more to this Ruby Group than just t-shirts and beer. Without Engine Yard's dedication to seeing regional Ruby and Rails groups succeed, WNY Ruby would have gone off the rails. Now we see consistent attendance of 30 or more and it's all thanks to our teamwork with Engine Yard.

Need help organizing your own local Ruby user group? Don't hesitate to contact us! We'd love to help out and make your user group the best it can be.

About PJ Hagerty

Developer, writer, speaker, musician, and Team Lead of an elite band known as the Engine Yard Community Team, PJ is known to travel the world speaking about programming and the way people think and interact. He is also known for wearing hats.